Harrow Council for Justice
a campaigning national organisation - promoting the principle of 'different but equal'

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    Our positions
  • people are not blind to colour in a colour conscious society
  • racism affects black and white people both but differently
  • racial harassment is anti human rights - more than hate crime
  • equal opportunity is to practise 'different but equal'
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Published letters

22 May good day for Harrow!   (letter published in Harrow Observer and Asian Voice in the week ending 6/6/14)

After a year’s of the political mess in Harrow and the damage caused because of the ILG factor (Independent Labour Group), we are relieved that Harrow council now has a majority administration (Labour) and the residents could expect stability at the council and good quality services once again.

Some Tories argue that they got 1 per cent more votes than the Labour and therefore should have more seats. The statistical fact is that the Tory average vote was slightly more than Labour only in nine wards (mostly because of the six strong Tory wards), while Labour average vote was consistently more than the Tory vote in twelve wards.

 

We are very worried about the worth of the Tory group now in opposition because of its defeat despite the prime minister, London mayor, home secretary visiting Harrow and dividing the community in the process. 

Such is the situation that all Tory candidates, including the sitting councillor, were defeated in the Rayners Lane ward which was exclusively visited by the home secretary.

The Harrow situation also reflects badly on the government: the prime minister visits Harrow and praises the minority Tory group for its ‘good work’ but the voters did not believe him. This raises serious question about his political judgement and credibility nationally.

Regarding the humiliated ILG that wasted significant public money while at the civic centre, we hope they have learnt hard way that the politics of hatred and revenge has no place in the mainstream politics and therefore could not win them any seats. We feel sorry for a number of innocent ILG candidates who were recruited for a political show down and obviously got nowhere.

Jaiya Shah

Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

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Voters need to be convinced (Harrow Observer 2/5/13), How will leader reflect diversity? (Harrow Times 9/5/13)

We support the calls for Councillor David Perry to give convincing reasons why he challenged his group leader Councillor Thaya Idaikkadar, ‘Britain’s first Sri Lankan council leader’, who was elected as the leader only few months ago.

It is crucial for Cllr Perry, hopeful for the Harrow Council leadership, to convince Harrow residents that he can confidently and independently account for his actions, ensure stability in running the council and uphold transparency. His silence reflects badly on his personality, in our opinion.

Harrow Labour group leader Councillor Idaikkadar was replaced by Councillor Perry at the recent Labour Group AGM. We, like many others concerned regarding the replacement, would wish to know what Cllr Perry is going to put right that Cllr Idaikkadar was doing wrong.

Or could it be that Cllr Idaikkadar has had a rough ride in a racing boat with a hole which has now been remotely unplugged, perhaps because of who he is.

The newly elected leader of the Labour Group, as far as we know and understand, has no track record of understanding or serving the highly diverse Harrow communities.

It would be interesting to see how well Cllr Perry’s cabinet reflects Harrow’s diversity.

Jaiya Shah
Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

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Lack of loyalty in fire brigade cuts
Harrow Observer 21 March 2013

IT is very concerning that Harrow Councillor Susan Hall, in association with other members like the Londonwide Assembly Member Gareth Bacon on the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, is behind the London Mayor’s plans to close fire stations.

Not only this, but the plan also includes the removal of 18 fire appliances and the loss of 520 firefighters across the capital.

We support the concerns that these cuts will inevitably endanger families and communities across London, including Harrow, and therefore are the real risk for safety and security of people in Harrow.

We demand a meaningful consultation in working out the fire and emergency planning arrangements for Harrow, as well as the level of resources needed to reassure that the borough is not exposed to any dangers because of the downgrading of fire cover.

We expect that Councillor Hall would be loyal to Harrow people rather than the Mayor of London.

JAIYA SHAH
Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

The same letter was published in Harrow Times on 28 February 2013 under 'Risks of closing fire stations'

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Hindu school
Asian Voice: 21/7/12 edition

Leader of the opposition Conservative group Councillor Susan Hall is trying to defend her indefensible veiled opposition to the Hindu school (Hindu residents hurt - Asian Voice, July 14).

Cllr Hall who previously said that the Hindu school at the Teachers Centre will make the traffic situation an absolute “nightmare”, is now says that her concerns are for the safety for potential pupils and teachers.

Harrow’s Core Strategy (CS) and Area Action Plan (AAP) have designated the Teachers Centre site for free school use such as the Hindu school. There is no evidence that Cllr Hall voted against CS or AAP or raised any health and safety concerns at the Council meetings. Why the wake-up call now!

Also, Cllr Hall should know that Whitefriars Community School,  Salvatorian College and Sacred Heart college are happily working in the locality without suffering from what Cllr Hall describes as the ‘local criminality’.  Is Cllr Susan Hall implying that the Teachers Centre location is somehow ‘no go’ area for Hindus?

It is shameful that Cllr Susan Hall is scaremongering and in the process propagating negative imagery of the local area and communities.

Dr Pravin Shah
Legal & General Secretary
 HCJ

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Community needs apology
The Harrow Times 28 June 2012

Strange that the leader of the opposition Conservative group Councillor Susan Hall opposes the Hindu free school at the Teachers Centre and finds the proposals “concerning” (New free school will be nightmare: Harrow Times June 14). 

Harrow East Conservative MP Bob Blackman in a Common’s debate in November, last year, welcomed the school and said, “will you join me in welcoming the decision of the Department for Education to grant initial approval to a new Hindu free school for the borough of Harrow”.

According to the Harrow Council documents, Teachers Centre, a previous school and now an active base for the education services, is the only building earmarked for a new school in Harrow. Therefore, the Council officers rightly helped the free school to open at the Teachers Centre as the school needs to start in September this year and no other accommodation is possible at this stage.

As usual, Cllr Hall has failed to suggest an alternative, in this case a  place to accommodate this free school which has been approved by her government’s department.

It is highly irresponsible of Cllr Hall and her associates to refer to the ‘prevalence of localised gang and criminal activity’ in a letter describing the impact of the Hindu school on the locality. The Hindu community needs an apology.

One wonders why any proposals for diversity-specific places of worship or education out rightly attract such hostility.

Jaiya Shah
Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

This letter has also been published in the Asian Voice, 7 July 2012

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Opportunities are wasted   (The Harrow Times 29/11/12)

We readily agree with Councillor Bill Stephenson about the ‘proper role of the opposition’.

The opposition should work as a critical friend, assisting the administration whenever possible and suggesting healthy alternatives whenever necessary. 

This role should be always fulfilled calmly and assuredly and with vigorous debate if required, but always with a view to cultivating an atmosphere that is conducive to working together – all in the interest of effectively serving the community. 

In our opinion, the leader of the Conservative opposition, Councillor Susan Hall, has failed to exhibit any of the above requisites.

Harrow Council for Justice is concerned, like many others in the borough, that opportunities to benefit Harrow residents are being wasted as a result.

For example, no shadow budget has been presented, thereby denying residents alternatives to the financial decisions being taken by the administration.

Three opposition councillors have left the Conservatives since May 2010.

In our opinion, the Conservatives under Cllr Hall are poor and are failing in the most basic duties of a credible opposition. 

Dr Pravin Shah, General & Legal Secretary HCJ

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Neighbourhood ChampionsThe Harrow Times 1/11/12

So the opposition leader Councillor Susan Hall is critical that Labour missed the target to recruit Neighbourhood Champions. Let us contextualise the issue for the sake of fairness.

When Cllr Hall committed £100,000 a year in 2009 to fulfil her “passion” for the Neighbourhood Champion scheme, the Daily Mail reported “Army of 'citizen snoopers' recruited by council to spy on neighbours” (9 November 2009). The newspaper perceived the scheme this way despite being well known for keenly highlighting any anti-social behaviour, particularly in the minority groups.

Such a public imagery has been supported by the fact that the Neighbourhood Champions remain anonymous because of the fear of being targeted by neighbours, particularly if they are viewed as providing feedback on criminal activities. This obviously makes the scheme less transparent – for example, not knowing who is reporting who.

Furthermore, those who came forward for this rather controversial role (roughly a quarter of those who backed the scheme in Harrow), soon found out that the authorities lack resources to adequately and effectively deal with what they report. For example, if the champions report one case each per month to the Council, the Council has no real capacity to deal with such a volume of reported cases. This causes significant frustration and the situation is less likely to improve in the face of decreasing resources because of the tight financial conditions.

Given all that, the shortage of volunteers remains a realistic outcome but of course Cllr Hall has to score a political point as usual.

Dev Mahadevaiah, Vice-Chairperson HCJ

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Bill is calm and tolerant man - Harrow Observer, and We respect his honest decision - The Harrow Times: 4 October 2012

Harrow Council leader steps down

Some in HCJ have known Bill since early 1990s. He is a softly spoken gentleman with no confrontational attitudes at all. He is calm and tolerant even in the situations like the opposition leader Councillor Susan Hall’s arrogant walkout from a Council meeting which even her side had distanced from.

Like the previous leader of the Council, Bill has good leadership qualities – for example, he is not vindictive as is confirmed by the fact that one of his Cabinet members who abstained from voting on a crucial move by his group at a Council meeting is still in place.

He is not an opportunist as confirmed by the fact that he never made a political meal out of the fact that two opposition councillors left the Conservative group since May 2010, raising fingers towards their group’s leadership. One (Cllr Sheinwald) went as far as saying, “When you have a good councillor you should look after them and she (Cllr Hall) just doesn't know how to look after people” and added “I want everyone to understand I'm not in it for an ego trip or to be promoted to a GLA member or an MP”: the Harrow Times 9th May 2011.

Similarly Bill never cashed in on the reported “civil war going on in that party” which was going on because of the Conservative group leadership’s interesting position regarding the Stanmore by-election candidacy.

We respect Bill’s honest and sincere decision to step down because of his given reasons and wish him well.

Dr Pravin Shah
Legal & General Secretary  HCJ

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Community grants in Harrow setting
published in the Asian Voice, The Harrow Times and Harrow Observer: 20 September 2012

We wish to contextualise the Harrow Council’s 'themes and outcomes and the maximum grant award available'.

 

In early 1980s, equal opportunities and community consultation were alien concepts for the council which  under the leadership of a Hatch End Councillor, was much behind in providing services which meet the needs and aspirations of different but equally important groups of residents in the borough.

 

The extensive argument and persuasion by the community leaders at the time, including many who later formed the Harrow Council for Justice, forced the council to revisit the criteria of its services. However, because of its lack of the capacity and political responsibility to make appropriate choices and make the services compatible with the local needs, the council cleverly tempted the voluntary community groups to support their communities through some financial help from the council. Thus, the use of the community grants to fill in the gaps in the service provision due to the council’s policies and practices based on dominant norms.

 

These arrangements  where the voluntary sector not only does what the council ought to be doing but is obliged to do it according to the council’s dictates, have existed in one form or the other over the years with varied outcomes.

 

Many years on, nothing has really changed in that the community has been left to deal with the effects of the council’s inadequacies. For example, £75,000 might be granted for ‘supporting and protecting people who are most in need’ i.e. the socio-cultural, financial, housing and care needs which could well are the result of the council’s less relevant policies and practices.

 

A similar grant is available to promote another theme  - ‘united and involved communities’ - though the level or allocation of the community resources as well as the short-sighted community development practices might be causing the communal tension and resulting in less conducive atmosphere for different groups of people to become involved.

 

We can go on!

 

Jaiya Shah
Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

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Big Society for the upper classes
Harrow Observer: 10 May 2012

Open letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Mr Prime Minister

You were quite supportive of the role of the grassroots community groups in delivering the ‘big society’ at the big society launch meeting held in Downing Street in May 2010.

Although the Harrow Council for Justice is not a candidate for any funding grants (nor we have ever been a candidate), the HCJ committed itself to support the ‘big society’ initiative, confirmed by my chairman’s statement (www.hcrj.org.uk ).

Two years on, there is a widening "big society gap" in which volunteering and other forms of social capital are strongest in wealthy areas. The first tranche of expected £3.3bn cuts in government funding to the voluntary sector over the next three years have and will hit charities based in deprived areas the hardest, creating the danger that the project becomes "an initiative for the leafy suburbs".

Though it might be too early to pass judgement on your vision but we believe there are real question marks over the vision and delivery of big society.

We believe that a support programme introduced by ministers for charities at risk of going bust, is too late and not really the answer.

We would be interested to hear how else you are going to address the impact of government cuts on the good work of the grassroots community groups, including the diverse community groups?

Regards

Jaiya Shah (Mrs)
Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

** The same letter was published in the Harrow Times on 10 May 2012 as "Charities in poor areas are hit first"

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Are checks on the Met working?
Harrow Observer letters: 12 April 2012

A generation after the Stephen Lawrence case and the subsequent racism enquiry, we are gravely concerned to see so many police officers in the force under investigation for racist behaviour.

It is alarming to know that 18 officers and one civilian staff member are being investigated in relation to 10 claims of racism.The Harrow Council for Justice makes a serious note of what the retired flying squad commander John O'Connor told BBC London.

He said that after the force was ‘vilified’ as being institutionally racist by the 1999 Macpherson Inquiry, which looked into the force's handling of the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation, checks and balances ‘should have been put in place’.

We agree with Mr O’Connor that we need to find out why this is happening.

In view of the present claims of racism and what flows from this, public has a right to know how well the recommendations of the Macpherson Inquiry have been implemented.

We emphasise that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime should monitor how effectively the Met related recommendations have been carried out as well as to evaluate their impact on the specific culture within the Met, and to keep public fully informed of the progress, including through the agencies.

Jaiya Shah
Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

Note: The Harrow Times published this letter in full (19/4/12) which included, ‘We (HCJ) are worried that what happens in macro can happen in micro i.e. in any London borough’.

On 20/04/12, The Harrow Times reported: ‘There are now 12 separate allegations of racism by Met officers under investigation by Scotland Yard and the IPCC’: Firefighter launches racism complaint against Harrow Police': http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/9662266.Firefighter_launches_racism_complaint_against_police/

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Defending the indefensible
The Harrow Times: Letters: 8 March 2012

We read with interest that Councillor Chris Mote (Conservative) is trying to defend the indefensible walk out by his group leader Cllr Hall from the budget Council meeting on February 16.

His letter - symbolic of self promotion and attention seeking - is demeaning to the role of public office and fails to provide convincing argument for the walk out which was staged only by few in his group.

We are slightly surprised to see the ease with which he is able to duck and ignore well founded public concerns about the erratic behaviour of his leader at the Council meeting.

Obviously holding councillors up to account, by drawing attention to their concerning conduct and inadequacies which adversely impact the democracy and civic duty that they represent, is pointless for Cllr C Mote and alike.

However, the HCJ is committed to raise public awareness of the socio-political and economic situations which have implications for the quality of life, and we will continue doing so.

Jaiya Shah
Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

The letter is also published in the Asian Voice

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Unfair attack on volunteers
The Harrow Times letters, 9 February 2012

We read with interest that Cllr Hall is trying to defend the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) as well as her recently reported attitude towards the Harrow Police and Community Consultative Group (HPCCG) which has been punished and is now defunct.

It is also interesting to find that the HPCCG management committee not only emerges as the problem, but also the cause. 

We suspect it is guilty of becoming involved in the ‘smart water’ and ‘neighbourhood champion’ initiatives, along with other wider community matters.

It is also guilty of not recognising its place within the socio-political hierarchy at the town hall and its expectation to be treated fairly.

Leaving the HPCCG’s cleverly projected inadequacies on one side, what about Cllr Hall as the leader of the opposition Conservative group?

Shouldn’t she lead an effective ‘opposition’ and therefore meaningfully serve the communities that pay for her allowances,  rather than chasing and bashing the community groups which are managed by unpaid volunteers who work tirelessly in the interest of people alone?

Dev Mahadevaiah
Deputy Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

Note: Councillor Navin Shah, London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, says, “I support the call for a thorough investigation behind the real reasons for scrapping the funding of Harrow Police Community Consultative Group (HPCCG)”: The Harrow Times letter: 23/2/2012

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Social stability is important
The Harrow Times letters: Thursday  25th August 2011

The Harrow Council for Justice welcomes the government’s move to expand the use of the family intervention project model, which was adopted under the previous government.

It seeks to help families who face a combination of problems such as mental illness, unemployment and poverty, usually by allocating a single social worker to gain an overview of the problems facing the family.

Though it is highly desirable that the state policies and practices address the intrinsic relationship between the ‘cause and effect’ in tackling social problems but given the state of the ‘broken  society’ at present, any short-term measures to deal with the ‘effects’  can only be good.

But for a long lasting social cohesion and stability we can not afford to keep chasing the ‘effects’ while not effectively addressing the ‘cause’.  Therefore, to mend the ‘broken society’, it is crucial for the decision-makers to rigorously work towards achieving both the economic stability and the social stability and not achieving one at the cost of the other as the successive governments seems to be doing.  It is comparatively easy to recover from an economic decline than from the social and moral decline.

It is nice to hear that Mr Cameron wanted a "family test" applied to all domestic policy, and that "If it hurts families, if it undermines commitment, if it tramples over the values that keep people together, or stops families from being together, then we shouldn't do it".

Why not to apply the ‘family test’ to the adverse long-term effects of some recent policies like the changes in the housing benefits or the cut in the Early Intervention Grant (by 11% in 2011) which is used to provide support for the families with multiple problems through local authorities.  For example, in the London Borough of Harrow this grant for 2011-12 is £714,404 less than its baseline allocation in 2010-11.

Jaiya Shah, Chairman of Harrow Council for Justice

The letter was also published in the Asian Voice

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‘Civil war’ will not be helpful
The Harrow Times letters: 10:59am Friday 12th August 2011

The Harrow Council for Justice strongly believes that both the administration and opposition at the town halls are equally important in serving people. But of course their respective effectiveness depends on their internal unity and togetherness.

It is within this context that we are worried about what has now been widely reported in Harrow (‘Deputy leader denies “civil war” between Tory group members,’ Harrow Times website, July 29.) We don’t know whether there is such a “civil war” or not, but what we do find odd is that the leader of the opposition Conservative group on the council is around, but seems to have said nothing publicly about the outcome of the very recent Stanmore by-election which the Conservatives won.

This, along with the reports indicating how or why two Conservative councillors recently left the group tends to suggest that there is no smoke without a fire.
Such a political climate in Harrow is not helpful at all.

Dev Mahadevaiah
Deputy chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

The letter was also published in the Asian Voice

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School shines in the tables
Jan 20 2011 Harrow Observer

BAD news travels fast but not the good news. With this in view, the Harrow Council for Justice (HCJ) often focuses on success stories; this time it is about a primary school in Harrow.

Newton Farm Nursery, Infant and Junior School in South Harrow not only uniquely outshines being on the top of the local league table of the primary schools, but is also fifth in the list of the primary schools with the highest attainment in England.

The league table for the primary schools published this year indicates exemplary performance by the school where the difference between the school performance data and the schools above it in the attainment list is minimal, despite the input indicators for the Newton Farm school being less favourable than others in the top five.

The last inspection report for the school said that 'pupils and staff from a wide range of backgrounds work in a harmonious and purposeful atmosphere'.

The report also states the school has more than three-quarters of all pupils from minority ethnic groups, most of whom are from Indian or other Asian backgrounds. The majority speak another language at home.

The HCJ highlights this highly achieving school because a parent and pupil profile like the one this school has, often becomes a justification for under-achievement in many schools.

The HCJ warmly congratulates the school whose remarkable position is of national interest.

JAIYA SHAH, Chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

The letter was also published in the Harrow Times, and Asian Voice at the same time.

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Twinning is still important
Nov 17 2010 Harrow Observer

THE latest unhealthy row about twinning tends to support the view that while 'celebrating' diversity, the authorities argue that variety creates anomalies.
Twinning is a declaration to acknowledge and value others in different parts of the world.

The Harrow Council for Justice appreciates the tight financial situation of many boroughs, and therefore does not wish to see lavish wining and dining at the twinned towns or expensive exchanges between them, but rather a healthy exchange of different but equally important experiences through modern means such as the internet or using other communal resources.

Cities all over the world have been twinning for various reasons in an effort to enhance long-term collaboration and co-operation among people, to improve the overall quality of life by sharing both inspiring events and disasters as well as issues like fair trade, global warming, conflicts and so on.

In the UK, town twinning has been mostly with Europe, where many cities traditionally twin with cities in France.

But such a Eurocentric approach to twinning is changing in progressive councils, as the traditionally narrow approach to twinning is simply not sustainable any more.
Active participation is obviously less likely in the absence of significant commonality of experiences and values between citizens of the twinned towns, as is the case at present!

It is possible that the potential locations for desired twinning in some countries might not have apparent stability, because of damaging colonial interferences, but progressive efforts towards fostering global understanding, nurturing networks of expertise and mutual sharing of ideas and solutions to overcome some common problems need not suffer.

PRAVIN SHAH General and legal secretary, Harrow Council for Justice

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Give us more consultation
Nov 11 2010 Harrow Observer

IT CAN only be good that Harrow Council is trying to consult residents at a time when scarce resources need to be sharply focused on clearly identified community needs, especially the needs of different groups of people.

While any initiative to consult the recipients of council services is helpful, what would really help is an ongoing and well-structured community consultation, especially as the adverse effects of the country's financial situation are going to be long lasting.

Customer satisfaction surveys gleaning residents' views about the council provisions through a complex and highly institutionalised voluntary/ third sector, who become so big with highly paid executives that they lose touch with the grass-root community and its needs, are no substitute for a healthy and transparent consultation process.

The archives of Harrow Civic Centre would confirm the benefits of the community consultative committee, chaired by a senior member, where the local grassroots community organisations developed a shared understanding of the issues involved and then collectively responded to the council agenda.

Sadly, the simple and rather effective mode of consultation, where the people concerned were in a position to address directly the matter that affected them, has been overtaken by most sophisticated umbrella organisations which claim to represent the communities - some of these bodies have finished up being investigated.

It is about time to recognise that grass-root communities are now more capable of taking charge of their own affairs, as well as directly and collectively to become involved in decision-making through a well-constructed community consultation platform.

DEV MAHADEVAIAH Deputy chairman, Harrow Council for Justice

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